My Struggle with Addiction

Welcome back!  Just to recap, my last blog post was about what it was like being the sister of an addict.  I wanted to share it because it was a big part of my life for nearly a decade.  More importantly, though, is my sister’s story behind her struggle with addiction.  She has been through a lot. It’s hard to turn over a new leaf.  It’s hard to turn your life around.  But I can only imagine that all of that pales in comparison to airing it out for everyone to read.  It takes guts.  It takes courage.  It takes someone with a heart who wants to help others.  ❤  Heather, take it away!! 

Let me start off by saying that I never thought it would be me. I never thought I would become a slave to drugs. It’s hard to put into words the pain and suffering one goes through during addiction. I know for myself, even my lowest of lows was not enough for me to get my act together. Nothing anyone could ever say or do could make me want to change. Looking back, I see how my behaviors could have foreshadowed the rough years ahead. 

I have always had the characteristics of someone with an addictive personality. When I was younger, I would lie about the silliest things, I would always do things in excess, I always wanted instant gratification and I was a master manipulator. I always felt different- I didn’t feel like all of the other kids. Instead of focusing on what normal kids should focus on, I was always too busy worrying about what others thought, I tried way too hard to fit in and I was overly sensitive to what other people said about me. 

My long run with drugs started when I was 18 years old. I had dabbled in stuff when I was in middle and high school, and I definitely tried more than the average kid,  but it wasn’t a serious habit…yet. At the time, I was dating Boyfriend #1 who was addicted to Oxycontin. I did not understand what that was or what withdrawals were. Either he was great at hiding it, or I was just super oblivious and naive. Regardless, when I found out, I was shocked and disgusted. I just couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that someone could give everything up for drugs. How could someone do that? How could someone lie and steal from their family? How could they spend every last dollar they had for a fix? I hate to admit it, but I used to look down on addicts at that time in my life. It was hard for me to empathize with something I just couldn’t relate to. 

I stayed with Boyfriend #1 hoping I could change him and show him that he didn’t need drugs. Well, it wasn’t long until I decided to give it a try. There’s this saying in AA  “if you hang out in a barber shop long enough, you’re going to get a cut”. Even though I didn’t do hard drugs, I still hung around with people that did. It was only a matter of time before I joined them.  I remember trying a half a pill, throwing up my dinner, and having a headache. It further solidified my idea that pills were gross. Time went on, me and Boyfriend #1 broke up, and I ended up meeting a new guy, same problem. 

I’d like to point out that even though I wasn’t physically addicted to any drugs at this time, I definitely was no angel. I would smoke weed everyday, dabble in coke and ecstasy, and I started getting into adderall. I suffered from an eating disorder that I was unaware I had, and I was an absolute terror to my family. No one wanted to be around me and I don’t blame them. I had no respect for anyone or anything. I did not care about how my actions would affect those around me. 

It was with Boyfriend #2 that I tried pills again for the second time. I remember a good friend of our’s was coming to the house and she brought them with her. He looked at me and asked if he could do one. I don’t know why that day was different but I responded “yes as long as I can split it with you”. And so we did. And I loved it. I don’t know why that day was different and I always wondered if it had gone like the first time, would I have still gone down such a dark, destructive path. 

You see, I didn’t understand the consequences of my actions. I didn’t know it was going to turn out the way it did. I hate when people say “well, you knew trying it that it was addictive.” And while yes that is true, I  had the “it won’t be me” attitude. My dad used to tell me “Heather, you’re consequences will get bigger as you get older.” And he was right. 

That relationship lasted a little over a year and shortly after I found Boyfriend #3. Boyfriend #3 was not an addict but he certainly didn’t help. I didn’t have a job and he sold weed so I relied on him completely to survive. He would hold it over my head, use drugs as a bribe, and enabled my behavior. It was with this boyfriend that I was held at gunpoint…twice. These kids around the neighborhood where we were living heard about what was in the house and decided they wanted it. The first time, we were all getting together for a friend’s birthday. At around 3 in the morning the birthday boy decided to go home so it was rather odd that he came right back in the door. Well, following behind him were two men in masks with guns. I was sleeping at the time and got woken up by a guy screaming and pointing a gun at me. He dragged me out of bed into the living room where I saw everyone else huddled on the ground with their hands over their heads. I remember being so scared. I had no idea if that night was going to be my last. They ended up running everyone’s pockets and leaving. A week or so went by and it happened again. Boyfriend #3 and I were sleeping when it happened. The same fear and panic came over me. They rummaged through the room, took what they wanted, and left. 

For most people those two scenarios would be enough to take a look at their lives, But not me. I went through another 5 years of hell. I felt trapped in a cycle that I couldn’t get out of. 

I remember going to detox for the first time to get help. I had tried an outpatient program before but I wasn’t willing to let go of my old friends and behaviors. This time I really wanted it to be different. Lauren took me to St. Charles emergency room so I could be admitted. I was covered by Medicaid and they only covered two days. If anyone knows anything about detoxing from opiates, two days is not enough. I ended up staying clean off of opiates for two weeks before relapsing. 

The second time I took a bit more drastic measures. Boyfriend #3 and I were on the brink of breaking up because he feared for my life. He reached out to my dad to come talk to me. They both sat there and told me I needed help. Any time before that if you would have tried telling me I needed any help I would have come up with a thousand reasons why you were wrong. This time I knew they were right and I admitted it. 

I had a good friend who went down to Florida to get sober. She seemed to be doing well and getting her act together. I figured if she could do it, I could do it and that was the decision that changed the direction of my life. 

Within a week of the sit-down talk with Boyfriend #3 and my dad, I was on the plane down to Florida. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my dads car, already going through withdrawals. I flew down to Florida with one suitcase and $23 my dad gave me before boarding. While I was waiting for my bag at baggage claim I debated on whether to run. I don’t know where I thought I was running to but that was my natural instinct when I was afraid. 

I am so happy I didn’t run because it was the start to a new life. I went through the 30-day program and moved into a halfway house. I got a job (my favorite one to date) and started to rebuild my life. For once I could finally see myself having a future filled with happiness, love, my family and friends. 

I did really well down in Florida for a while until I experienced something traumatic. I was dating Jono. Things were going really well until he unexpectedly passed away. After that, I just couldn’t cope and reverted back to my old ways. I started using again to numb the pain. I felt like it was okay because I knew why I was using. Well because of that action, I lost my job that I loved and nearly all of my friends. That last run took everything out of me. I had known a better, more amazing way of life and I turned away from it. I felt guilty and ashamed and like a total loser. Shortly after Jono died, Jonathan and I got together. Just a few months into our relationship, I got pregnant. 

At the time, I was an absolute mess. I remember looking at the pregnancy test and seeing “positive”. I cried a lot. I was very scared. I knew what I had to do. I would be damned if I had a child and could not take care of it. The next day, I reached out for help. It is because of that help that I am able to be a mother to my child today. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, saw the potential that I couldn’t see, and kept pushing me to keep going. 

At 8 months pregnant we decided to move back up north to be closer to family and on September 15, 2018 Zoey Faith was born. This little girl has no idea what she has done for me. I call her my lifesaver because she literally saved my life. Everyday she teaches me something new and makes being her mother an absolute joy.

As much as I would love to tell you why I became addicted to drugs, I don’t think I can really pinpoint a certain reason. I feel like for myself, it was a combination of how my brain is wired, exterior circumstances, and the feelings I wanted to escape from. I believe some people are just born with an addictive personality and others go through certain experiences in their lives that can turn them in that direction. I can tell you that I have lost a lot along the way – friends, money, self-love, etc. but I have gained a lot too.  My hope is that I can take the lessons addiction has taught me and help other women. If you or a loved one you know is struggling with addiction, I am here to talk. Also, below, I have listed a few resources. 

SAMHSA’s National Helpline – 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255

www.drugabuse.gov

 

Hawaii Vacation Recap

Aloha!

It’s been a looooooong time since you’ve heard from me.  I was kinda distracted the last month or so leading up to my trip to Hawaii.  There was so much to do to prepare for it.  And I think knowing that I was going to be away from the kids for 7 nights, halfway around the world, with a 6 hour time difference was creating a little angst.  I’ve been away from both of my kids before but not for this long and not this far away.  So I was a little off during the month of April.

So now that I’m back, I wanted to share a little bit about my trip.  For those of you that are just catching up, let me explain why I had the opportunity to go to Hawaii in the first place. I work in the financial services industry.  And like most commission-based/sales industries there are incentive trips that sales reps can qualify for based on their production.  I’m not a sales rep. I work on the operations side of the business.  But because our office had such a stellar year, I was invited to go.  I’d never been to Hawaii and I had a million reasons why I couldn’t/shouldn’t go but I decided to figure out a way to make it work!

If you’ve never been to Hawaii, YOU MUST GO. I’ve been fortunate enough to go to many different places and see a lot of different things over the years, but I have to say, there is nothing quite like Hawaii.  It has mountains and canyons and waterfalls a plenty!  There’s a ton of wild chickens and I even got a picture of a beautiful black swan! The sites were absolutely breathtaking.

But for me, this vacation was about a lot more than an opportunity to get away! I wanted to focus on a few things while I had time to think without two toddlers whining or repeatedly saying “I’m hungry” even when they just ate dinner!

Explore: I like to be active. I like to explore and try new things. I wouldn’t say I’m an adrenaline junkie but I wouldn’t say I’m not either. It would have been crazy for me to travel all the way to Hawaii to sit poolside for 6 days straight, right? My brother and I went for a hike at Waipoo Falls and got amazing pictures of the waterfall. I also went on a catamaran snorkel tour of the Napali Coast, which was absolutely incredible.  Not only did we get to see the entire Coast from an ocean view, we got an amazing history lesson (and quite a few laughs) from the Captain.  We saw spinner dolphins, we snorkeled, and I jumped off the boat… because why not?!

Spend Time Alone: I think it’s easy to say you like to spend time alone when you have a husband or a boyfriend. But when you don’t, you learn that it’s not so simple.  I was with someone for 12 years, which was my entire adult life.  Even though I was going to be spending time with work friends (many of them had their spouses or significant others with them), I was still alone.  And I’ve been alone for the last year.  Okay, don’t cry… that sounded really sad.  But it’s not and I’ll tell you why.  Being alone is actually a really good way to learn about yourself.  When you have a partner (or even kids for that matter) sometimes you get so caught up in the wants and needs of others that you forget to ask yourself what you want, or what you need, or whether or not you’re happy.  Besides my kids—whose wants and needs are really quite simple- love them, feed them, clean them, play with them, I can focus on myself.  What I want, what I need and what makes me happy.  I hiked a trail by myself (almost got lost– only me!).  I took walks by myself.  I shopped by myself.  It was kinda cool.  And it gave me a chance to work on my very very very (did I mention very) amateur photography skills.

Relax & Recharge: I brought 3 books with me to Hawaii. I only started reading one on the plane en route home.  I brought my tablet—I didn’t turn it on.  The only time I turned on my TV in my room was the morning that I was leaving to check the bill and checkout.  When I’m on vacation I want to do whatever I want to do in that moment.  If I want to hang by the pool and have a cocktail, I will.  If I want to take a walk, I will. If I want to listen to a Podcast (this is my new obsession, btw), I will.  If I want to take a jog, I will.  If I want to eat shave ice, I will.  Surprisingly, it doesn’t take much for me to relax. I knew that my kids were in good hands. I knew that it would be quiet at the office. I just wanted to relax.  And I totally did.  That’s why I came back READY TO FREAKIN GO!

One of the things I’ve tried to focus on this year has been living in the moment a little more.  Ya’ll know I’m a planner x 1000.  Finding the balance between living in the moment and accomplishing big goals can be difficult.  If I’m living in the moment too much, I tend to lose focus.  If I’m planning every second of every day, I can become too rigid, get bored and become fanatical. 

So I’ve taken the approach of planning with wiggle room.  Always having a plan, but being nimble enough to enjoy any opportunities that come up! And when I get an opportunity to totally unplug (like I did for 6 days in Hawaii), I take it. I listen to my mind and body and allow myself to do and feel whatever they want. 💖

Takeaways:

1. Go to Hawaii 🌺

2. Take time to relax and recharge once in a while

3. Listen to your body

4. Explore when you can

5. Go to Hawaii 🌺

My Passion Project

When I started blogging it was part of a secret mission.  I know that sounds super cool and top secret, but it’s not.  It’s been a personal mission to find my passion.  I know this may not make sense to everyone reading this but I don’t want to just have a job or have a career.  I want to build something of my own.  I want to be proud of what I do.  I want my children to be proud of what I do.  It’s not enough for me to say I make “x” amount of dollars a year. I want to leave an imprint on this earth.  I want to impact others.  My blogging has forced me to look at myself from a lot of different angles.  And in order for my blog to be authentic, I’ve had to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly!  This has all been part of the master plan (insert weird creepy laugh here).

Over the past several months I’ve been thinking about all the things I wanted to be when I grew up and all of the things I’ve actually done. The first thing I remember wanting to be was a teacher.  I was always playing school with my grandma when I was a kid– she was the student and I was the teacher, obvi.  Over the course of my childhood and through my teenage years, teaching was always on my list.

At some point, I wanted to be a magazine editor (not sure if I ever told anyone about this one).   When I was a kid I used to love reading magazines.  You know, like Bop!  And then I graduated to Fitness and Self and eventually Cosmopolitan (because what 18-year old prude wasn’t reading Cosmo?!)  I did this weird thing when I read magazines– I literally read them from cover to cover.  I used to read EVERYTHING in the magazine. Even the credits in the beginning. Even the name of the Mac lipstick I’d never ever wear. EV-ER-Y-THING.  But my favorite part of the magazine was in the beginning.  It was the note from the editor, alongside a very beautiful picture of what I dreamed every magazine editor looked like.  I used to think to myself, I want to be an editor of a magazineI want to be the one to approve the themes of each edition and “yay” or “nay” the ideas for stories for each section.  (I literally decided exactly what the editor did even though I had nothing to base it off of…but that sounds kinda accurate, right?).

But that dream faded pretty quickly.

Next up: sportscaster (I even went to college for this one!).  Although I still love to play sports and be active, my desire to follow sports has dwindled over the years.  But back when I was 17 or 18 years old, I was a big Mets and Knicks fan.  I would watch SportsCenter on ESPN with my brother every morning before school and I thought it would be so awesome to be the next Linda Cohn.  But that, too, fell by the wayside within my first semester of college.  Obviously that dream wasn’t the dream.

Eventually I fell into (and yes, I use those words purposely) working with my dad.  My dad worked for MetLife for 29 years.  I began working at his office at the end of my second year of college.  I was the Recruiting Coordinator.  I was 20 years old and had no idea what I was doing, but the girl I replaced must’ve really sucked because they didn’t even let her stay to train me.  I did get some training from my direct manager, but she dealt more with marketing so the actual nitty gritty of my job I kinda had to learn on my own by making phone calls and asking a million questions.

Three years later my dad brought me over to his new company, National Life Group.  He needed an Office Manager and thought I’d be a great fit for the small agency.  He was right… I totally nailed it.  Haha, just kidding.  Okay, okay, I didn’t not nail it, but I had a ton to learn.  I was only 23 years old and even though both companies were life insurance companies there was a big difference between my roles at MetLife and National Life.  I was running the office at National Life.  Good thing I was getting my MBA, right?  (Ha, I laugh at that only because when it comes to running a business there is nothing better than on the job experience.  You can take all the classes in the world but it will never beat out work experience.)

There are parts of my job I love.  For instance, every day is different.  And, I get to work on all aspects of the business—accounting, financial reporting, marketing, training, recruiting and on-boarding, even a little IT stuff.  I’ve grown A LOT since day one.  I’m not sure I’d be where I am today if I hadn’t been given this opportunity at a very young age.  And I am grateful for the autonomy and flexibility I have.  Even though I don’t own the business, I run the business.  And I take that very seriously (like 98.5% of the time).

So why am I giving you my job history?  Relax, I’m getting there!

I have done quite a few things over the years—barista at Starbucks, Recruiting Coordinator and New Business Processor (at MetLife), Beachbody coach, pure barre instructor, Operations Manager (National Life) and blogging.  And I am truly grateful for everything I’ve done because a) I’ve had the balls to go outside my comfort zone and try new things and b) I’ve learned a lot about myself from each one!

I’ve learned where my strengths are.  I’ve learned where my weaknesses are (brings back memories of my business school days when we talked about SWOT analysis).  I drilled down and figured out what I liked about each of those jobs/opportunities and what I didn’t like.  Here’s a list of the things I love:

  • I love to talk (I know… SHOCKER)
  • I love to listen
  • I love to help people
  • I love to lead small groups and work one-on-one with people
  • I love running a business
  • I love writing and editing
  • I love fitness
  • I love to problem solve
  • I love goal setting
  • I love sharing my experiences
  • I love providing motivation and inspiration to others

It took me 14 years of being in the workforce (18 years old- 32 years old) to figure out what my actual dream job is but I finally figured it out!  I’m in the preliminary stages of my endeavor.  Meaning, I’m researching and doing a shit ton of homework.  But let’s just say it involves ALL of the things I love to do.  For now, I’m calling it my passion project.  But eventually, because I’m going to work real hard at it and be real good at it (don’t believe me, just watch), it’s going to be my baby.  The job that will allow me to create the lifestyle I want to live.  I’m not ready to officially announce anything because I know people will ask me a ton of questions that I just don’t have answers to yet.  So hold your horses! It’s coming!

And while I’m working on MY DREAM, I really encourage everyone reading this to step outside their comfort zone and try new things.  Even if those things aren’t the dream, it’ll at least take you one step closer to it.  And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and actually own your dream.  Because guess what?  You’d be surprised how many people are actually cheering you on versus tearing you down. I’ve never EVER gotten any negative feedback from any one of my blog posts.  In fact, people are encouraging and supportive and rooting for me!  So why wouldn’t people do the same for you!!?!?  They would!! Trust me!  🙂

Making Movement Part of Mom Life

Being a parent is literally the most difficult job I’ve ever had.  There’s always four little eyes watching my every move and four little ears listening to my every word.  It’s a big responsibility and no one truly understands it until they’re actually in it.  It becomes much more apparent when your kids start asking questions or repeating things you say.  You’re no longer free to stare at yourself in the mirror and make comments about your body while your daughter is slipping her feet into your shoes so she can play dress up.  You can no longer hide the candy or the “mommy juice” (aka diet soda in my house) because your son has become very curious and will ask “what’s that?” a million times before you throw a Twizzler at him to try.

Well, I guess you can do those things.  You can do anything you want.  But I think every parent wants to set a good example for their kids.  And don’t get me wrong, we all make mistakes and say unflattering things about ourselves, partake in eat-out-of-the-carton ice cream sessions, and scream or yell at our kids out of frustration.  And that’s all OK because no one is perfect.  We’re all just doing the best we can.

I’m going to take a step back here for a second.  You ever say something and before you actually finish the sentence all you can think is I sound like mother/father?  It happens to me ALL THE TIME!  Some classic lines in my house growing up were because I said so and life’s not fair.   Those are just things I remember my parent saying, but what about things my parents did or behavioral habits they had??

When I thought about this, the first thing that popped into my head was making my bed every dang morning.  As a child I watched my mom make her bed every day.  I was taught to make my bed.  And now, as an adult, I will not leave my house without making my bed.  It’s just part of my life.  It’s part of my routine.  It’s part of my lifestyle.  I watched this habit, I was taught this habit and this habit became a habit of mine (remember, habits are not always a bad thing!).

Creating and teaching healthy habits to my kids is very important to me.  My goal is for my kids to see me engaging in as many positive, balanced and healthy activities as possible.  Positive self-talk is one.  Eating a well-balanced diet that includes everything in moderation and never feeling guilty about indulging is another.  And of course, my most favorite thing in the world to talk about—movement.

The word movement is all encompassing to me. It means parking a little further away from the store because you have two good legs and you should use them.  It also means not sitting on the couch every day from the minute you get home to the minute you’re ready to transition to your bed.  It’s about having a dance party with your kids instead of watching TV.  Or running around outside while cleaning up the yard instead of playing on a tablet (two birds, one stone here people!).  And it also means getting your heart rate up and strengthening and lengthening your muscles with various forms of exercising.

I want my kids to witness and partake in all of the above. I want movement to be a big part of their lives.  I want it to be a non-negotiable.  I want it to become part of who they are are and what they do.  I want it to be part of their lifestyle.

And while I won’t know if what I’m about to share is actually working until later on down the road (I’ll keep you posted by writing a blog post about it in 20 years), it couldn’t hurt to try some of these ideas.

Make time instead of making excuses.  I could probably write a 30-page dissertation on how I hate when people say they don’t have time.  No, you have time, you’re just not making time.  Instead you’re making excuses.  If something is that important to you, you find a way to get it done.  I try not to use the phrase “I don’t have time.”  Instead I say: “it’s just not the highest priority right now.”  Because if it was higher on the list, it would be getting done. Yes, it’s that simple. No, for real, it’s that simple.

If you want to be healthier, more fit, more balanced, more in control, have more energy… then MAKE IT A PRIORITY!  You might have to adjust your sleep schedule slightly or limit your social media scrolling time.  Unfortunately there are only so many hours in a day so you just need to allocate your time better because no one has time.  No one ever complains they have too much time.  We all just say there’s not enough time in the day… or do we just need be honest with ourselves about how we’re utilizing our 24 hours?

Workout while the kids are sleeping: I commend any mother that works out with her kids playing in the next room. I think that’s amazing. I prefer peace, quiet and not having to worry about how many times I’m going to have to pause to break up a fight or “oooh” and “ahhh” over artwork.

When I workout at home, I set my alarm as early as 4:40 AM so I can get my workout in before the morning mayhem begins. I know it sounds super early and maybe too early to some, but your body gets used to waking up early. It’s worth it to get your 30-minute workout done in 30 minutes rather than 45 or 50 because of all the stop and go.  Plus, I’m a working mom so I don’t have much choice– there’s no opportunity for a nap time workout.  And by the time I get home, well I’m lucky if I can keep my eyes open past 8 PM.

Get your kids involved in exercising: However, there are times that I snooze my alarm on a Saturday morning. And I do that knowing that at least one of the kids will be waking up during my workout. It’s usually Ethan and he comes downstairs and sits and watches me.  But really he doesn’t STFU for 30 minutes!!

So while I regret hitting snooze because my workout won’t be as good as I want it to be, I figure it’s a good opportunity to teach Ethan about my love of movement. He imitates me using his Styrofoam weights, uses my step to attempt some cool moves, and works on his plank hug grip while I work on my plank. It’s cute and I love it.

Playground + Walk: I absolutely love being outdoors with my kids anytime it’s over 50 degrees. Every time we go to the “big park” in my neighborhood, I make it a point to remind them in the car: first we take a walk and then we play on the slides.

That’s right, the minute we get to the park I pop the kids in the double stroller and we walk around the park twice before playing.  I like this tactic for two reasons: 1) It’s an opportunity for movement FOR ME! And 2) it teaches my kids patience. They don’t always get to run to the swings the minute they see them.  And now it’s just part of the routine of going to the park.  It’s not like it happens every other time we go.  That means I don’t have to play “let’s make a deal” on the days I want to go for a walk. (I save that for when we leave: Ethan, Alex, do you want ice cream?!) #notajoke

And last, but definitely not least, schedule your workouts into your week on Sunday evenings.  Not like I think I’m going to barre Monday and Wednesday and I’ll run, like two days.  No, like, write it down in your planner and check it off as you complete the workout.

You might not have to write down your workout schedule forever, but I’ll be honest, over a decade into my wellness journey and I still find it useful to write it out.  In a way I kinda build the rest of my week around my workouts.  What I eat, when I socialize, when I have a drink (or two).  It helps keep you honest and who doesn’t like checking something off a list!?!?

None of these tactics are that sophisticated.  I prefer to keep things simple.  My kids are going to develop some of my habits (good and bad).  My goal is to give them as many good ones to latch onto as possible!

Wow, it’s been a while.  At least a month.  Part of the reason I have been hesitant to write has been because I wanted to write and share this particular post before I moved on.  This has been a huge year of personal growth for me.  The way it started and the way it ended couldn’t be any more different.  And while it was the hardest year of my life in a lot of ways, it was actually the best year in a lot of ways too.

I don’t really even know how to start this so I guess I’ll start with something simple:  my husband and I are getting divorced.  And before you start with the “I’m so sorry” spiel, know this:  It’s OK.  We’re OK.  The kids are OK.  The reason I’m sharing this is because it’s part of my journey.  My family life journey, my personal growth journey and even my fitness journey.  And like I said in my very first blog post, I think it’s important to share the hard things.  Especially since social media allows us to share the parts of our lives that we’re happy of, proud of, excited about, etc.  We hide all the things we don’t want people to see or know about us.  Even I do that at times.

I’m not going to go into details about what happened between me and Randy because there are things that in spite of caring about us or knowing us, only he and I will understand.  But I do want to provide some context.  Randy and I met when I was in 9th grade and he was in 12th grade.  I was 15 years old at the time… so you do the math, he’s been in my life longer than he hasn’t been.  We didn’t start dating until a few years later when I was 19 and he was 22.  And the people we were at 19 and 22 are very different than the people we are today.  The things that were important to both of us in relationships back when we were “kids” are different than today as “adults.”

But one of the things I think Randy and I have always had in common is the fact that we both have/had a lot of traditional values.  We were both brought up thinking that you meet someone, get engaged, buy a home, get married, start your family and DUH, live happily ever after…

I can only speak for myself here but I had a hard time coming to terms that Randy and I weren’t meant to be married anymore.  It was a hard pill to swallow after doing everything the “right” way.  I have always been that person—the one who does the right thing, follows the rules, makes logical and smart decisions.  I want people to like me.  And I absolutely hate disappointing people—especially my parents.

But you wanna know a secret?  I actually like coloring outside the lines once in a while.  I like to dance with danger just a bit.  And I’m a very emotional person that is perfectly OK with making gut decisions because at one point it was what I wanted.  And for the first time in my entire life, I don’t have a plan.  Or at least a 100% clear vision of what my future is going to look like.  And I’m learning to be OK with that.

So what does this all mean?  It means that while I still don’t like to disappoint people and I of course, want people to like me, I need to be true to myself.  Instead of being a shell of who I am, I need to embrace every part of who I am.  Even the part that makes dumb decisions, flies off the handle at stupid things, and is OK with people judging me when I do edgy things.  (Edgy by Lauren standards here. I’m not about to rob a bank 😉 ).

Ever since Randy and I separated back in March I feel more myself.  And it’s not because I ever felt that Randy held me back.  In fact, Randy has always supported me and encouraged me in everything I do.  I think it was the weight of the situation that snowballed to the point where I didn’t even know who I was or what I wanted anymore.  But since we separated, I feel more relaxed.  I feel more at ease with who I am and where I’m going (wherever the F that is).  And I came to the conclusion that I rather be unapologetically me, than someone who tries to be something or someone for everyone else.

But I’ll be 1000000% honest.  There are days that are hard.  There are days that I cry A LOT.  There are days that I question decisions made 2 years ago and 2 minutes ago.  But just like everyone else who’s going through “stuff”, I just keep on chugging along.  Because just like everyone else, I have to.  Because the world doesn’t stop if I’m having a bad day.  Life continues.  My kids still need me to be their mommy.  My job needs to me to function.  And my house won’t be able to run if I don’t do the laundry, pay the bills or go food shopping.

And quite frankly, I feel incredibly lucky.  Why?  Because me and Randy are still friends.  And maybe that’s always been part of the problem- we’ve been really good friends for so long.  But either way, we care about each other and respect each other enough to make what we’re going through right now the healthiest it can possibly be.  Maybe it’s weird to outsiders. Maybe it’s not “normal.”  But it works for us. Don’t’ get me wrong, we still piss each other off.  But I’m pretty sure that comes with any relationship—whether it’s a married couple, divorced couple or just a plain ol’ besties since 4th grade.  We all get into arguments and push each other’s buttons at times.

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So how does this tie into what I’m doing with my fitness blog?  Well, I’ll tell you.  Being a “health, fitness, move your body, work your mind, live your best life self” advocate is something I love to do.  And I’ve thrown myself into it even more so lately because I am truly passionate about it.  I love sharing what lights me up inside.  It’s also the most normal and consistent thing in my life.  In a year where things got flipped upside down, I was able to keep some sort of normalcy by keeping up with my fitness routine.  It’s kept me sane.

It also gives me:

an opportunity to reflect.

an opportunity to push my physical limits and see what my body is capable of.

an opportunity to sweat out the stress.

an opportunity to gain confidence.

an opportunity release endorphins

an opportunity to start my day off on the right foot

an opportunity to continue to work on myself at a time where I could easily just throw in the towel and say, “I’ll restart when things calm down.”

an opportunity to prove to myself that I can handle ANYTHING.

So I’ll leave you with this—do whatever the hard thing is.  Work on the hard things.  Make peace with the hard things.  Just don’t let the hard things hold you back.  Because at the end of the day, that is a much more regrettable way to live your life.

And one more thing—only YOU know what feels right to you.  So don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

And lastly, when in doubt, sweat it out!  😉 Believe me, it helps in more ways than you’ll ever know. Even though your problems still exist after your workout is over, you have the chance to clear your head and more importantly, time to work on yourself. And at a time when I’ve needed it the most, working out reminds me that I am strong enough to push through anything that comes my way.

So with that, see ya later 2018!  And hello there, 2019!  🙂

Why I Love to Weightlift

You know how you get when you talk about something or someone you love?  Like that super animated, talk really fast, lots of inflection in your voice type of talking?  That’s how I feel about fitness.  I love to talk about running, home workouts, barre… you name it, I’m excited about it!  Recently that excitement includes weightlifting.  I went from a cardio queen to a lifting machine (OMG, that totally rhymed, I am so happy right now 😉 ).

This was a huge transition for me because I used to HATE lifting weights.  I did everything I could to avoid it.  I would do extra cardio and then oops, ran out of time, gotta go so I’m not late for work all the time.  I just didn’t enjoy it.  And I didn’t see the benefits.  But so many fitness gurus talk about how weightlifting is super important for women—especially as we get older.  So over the past few years I started implementing it into my workout routine.  It truly does amazing things for your body.  And there’s a ton of different ways to go about doing it!  I also learned that it’s much more than “I lift things up and put them down.”  Form is everything.  Even when weights seem “light” you still need to make sure you’re in proper form so that a) you don’t hurt yourself and b) you’re working the right muscles for that exercise.

And that’s about as scientific I’m going to get about weightlifting because I don’t have too much textbook knowledge on it.  But I’ve been doing it for a while now and I am happy to say I see results from what I do and also (:knocking wood:) I don’t feel pain or get hurt often (I feel like I had to add the word “often” in otherwise I sound like a tool if I say “never” and I’ll end up eating my words).

Anywayyyy, there are three different approaches I’ve used over the years for lifting weights.

  • Light Weight/High Reps– This used to be my go-to strategy. I’d hit the 8 lb dumbbells and do bicep curls and chest presses for dayzzz.  I still use this method sometimes.  Usually it’s when I do an EMOM (every minute on the minute) workout.  I’ll use the 8 lb dumbbells and curl for one minute straight.  This will definitely fatigue my muscles even though I would normally use 15 lb dumbbells but do a lot less reps.  To me, it’s just a different way to work the muscles—I’m using lighter weights and doing more reps rather than heavier weights and less reps.  It’s a way to switch things up.  And not just for my muscles, but for me mentally.  I admittedly get bored of doing the same thing week in and week out so changing up HOW I do my lifting gets me more excited to do it.
  • Medium Weight/Super SetsSuper sets, by MY definition, is when you do two exercises back-to-back with little to no rest in between- 10 reps each. For example, you might do a bicep curl and then drop those weights and pick up your heavier weights for a bent over (hehe) row.  Your “rest time” is basically the time it takes you to put your curl weight dumbbells down and pick up your row weight dumbbells.  You can also do this in the form of quad sets where you do four exercises back-to-back.  This method is fun because it moves quickly and definitely gets your heart rate up.  Obviously you’re not using your max weight (at least not for every exercise) because your muscles will be SPENT with 2.5- 5 lbs less than your max weight—trust ya girl on that one.
  • Heavy Weight/Low Reps– This is probably the most effective way to get strong, quick. Meaning, build da muscles.  I used to HATE using heavy weights because I thought I’d look like a dude.  But I’ve used this approach and definitely like the way it feels to lift heavy weights.  Also, I’m pretty sure the only way I’d be able to build muscle like a man is if I started taking testosterone … which is not on my to do list.

Okay, so I told you HOW I lift weights, but I haven’t told you WHY.

  • I used to hate wearing tank tops or anything sleeveless because my arms didn’t look good. HA!  At 25 I was already thinking my arms looked terrible so I would try to hide them as much as I could.  So yes, from an aesthetic standpoint I like the way my arms and shoulders look since I started lifting weights.  I feel more confident in tank tops, sleeveless dresses, etc.  I like looking cut and definitely enjoy checking out my arms in the mirror sometimes. (What?! I’m just being honest here 😉 ).
  • I love seeing the progress I’ve made and feeling stronger every day. I also love saying things like “no, I got it” when someone asks me if I need help lifting or moving something.  I have my limits of course, but it’s nice to feel strong.
  • I believe that lifting weights has helped me other areas of fitness—specifically running. Even when I used to use weights at the gym I would rarely work my legs.  Now I do leg workouts with dumbbells and feel a huge difference.  I run once a week and I feel like I’m pretty much just as fast, if not faster, than I’ve ever been (in my adult life) because of incorporating leg workouts to my routine.
  • There are so many health benefits to lifting weights but that’s not really my wheelhouse so I’m going to let this beautiful graphic do the talking. (It had me at “feel good” endorphins and reduces stress and anxiety.  Anyone else?)

Benefits Of WeightLifting

Like I said , I used to hate lifting weights so if you’re in that camp, I totally get it.  However, I truly believe that it’s part of a well-rounded fitness regimen.  And it doesn’t necessarily need to be 3 or 5 times a week.  I will lift for 6 or 8 weeks and then take a break for a couple of weeks.  This gives my body time to recover and for my muscles to start craving the lifting again.  I totally encourage people to incorporate some sort of lifting into their routine.

I  would love to hear other ideas and ways that people like to lift.  I’m always looking to try out new things.  Please share what you do in the comments!!!

 

Holiday Season Weight Maintenance Tips

'Tis the Season for Holiday Weight Maintenance Tips!

Today’s post is all about holiday season dos and don’ts.  It is so easy to get caught up in the holiday fun and completely forget about your health and fitness goals.  And then you wake up on January 1st and you’re already feeling sorry for yourself and the idea of taking on 2019 seems very distant. I see myself stress the minute Halloween candy hits the stores.  I even caught myself saying, “ugh, it’s so hard to stay on track through the holiday season.”  That’s like 1/6 of the year that I’m talking about… and ya know when it’s also hard?  The summer.  The dead of winter.  And also, ALL THE DAMN TIME.

Okay, so I’m not saying anything earth shattering here… we all know this.  So what can we do about?  I got some ideas for you, kids.  Don’t you worry!

Big Time Don’ts:

  • Stop saying things like “it’s so hard this time of year” and “ugh, I always gain a few pounds during the holiday season.” The more you say these things and put them out into the universe, the more you believe them.  (Cough, cough, self-fulfilling prophecy, cough, cough).  So if you’re constantly saying, “I’m fat”… guess what?  Your brain actually thinks your fat even if you’re not.  It is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT to get out of this type of habit.  When you’re used to saying things like this it’s almost like it comes out of your mouth without you even thinking about it.  So, trying not to say these things is the first step.  But if you catch yourself slipping up (like I did a few weeks ago), you should follow it up very quickly with—“but it’s my CHOICE and this year is going to be different.  I am in control.”
  • Don’t forget about your workouts—whatever your routine is during the rest of the year (3x, 4x, or 5x per week) KEEP IT UP. This is not the time to slack.  In fact, I challenge you to add on an extra 10 minutes to your workout every other day.  (I’ll post up some 10-minute workouts on my Instagram page next week to give you some ideas!).

Big Time Dos:

  • Track what you eat. Whether you write it down on a piece of paper (like me) or use an app on your phone (My Fitness Pal and LoseIt are two great options), keep track of what you put in your mouth.  This is annoying and time consuming, there’s no doubt about it.  But try it for 4/7 or 5/7 days per week.  I guarantee you on those days you’ll eat better because you’re consciously noting what you’re eating.  And, because you’ll feel so good you might even want to track an extra day or two.
  • Don’t track what you eat on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas or at your work holiday party. Life is about balance—you have to train your brain to understand that.  We all have a different definition of balance.  You might think my definition is too loose or too rigid.  Just find YOUR balance.  In my opinion, unless you’re a bodybuilder or training for a bikini competition, there’s absolutely no reason to track all the time.  You should be able to go away on vacation or enjoy a holiday gathering without tracking your meals because when it’s over you just go “back to normal” (whatever YOUR normal is—i.e. clean eating 75% of the time). There’s no thinking about it, it just happens.  And believe me, it doesn’t happen after a few days… this took me MONTHS to wrap my head around, but once I did, it made my life so much easier.  Getting “back to normal” after a few days of indulging became part of my new normal.
  • Keep it moving! If it’s warm enough outside, go for a walk.  If you go shopping, park far away from the entrance.  If you have stairs in your office building, take ‘em.   If you have a FitBit, or Apple iWatch, use them to track your steps.  Try to hit 10,000 steps per day.  This is a tip for all the time, not just the holiday season.  I get that it’s much more convenient to park close to the store entrance, but it’s not such a bad thing to get a few extra steps in.  Sidebar: if you have children with you, always try for a closer parking spot.   If you are buckling and unbuckling children from car seats and putting them in a shopping cart and keeping them alive, you’re probably getting a pretty sick workout anyway, so kudos to you, you deserve the best spot! 😉

I personally head into the holiday season on maintenance mode.  Truth is, I’ve gained about 5-6 lbs over the past few months.  Yes, some of it might be muscle.  But some of it might be from overindulging.  I’d like to lose that weight now but I decided not to get myself too stressed over it.  I decided to go 100% maintenance mode from now through the end of the year.  That includes:

  • Keeping track of my eating more days than not,
  • Increasing the intensity of my workouts,
  • Enjoying holiday parties and get togethers with family and friends,
  • Planning to kill in come January 1st.

The holiday season should be fun.  We already stress about gifts and parties and seeing our families.  Your health shouldn’t be an extra stressor.  My biggest piece of advice is to find something that works for you.  I don’t think anyone’s ever said, “completely letting myself go and throwing caution to the wind” was the best decision they ever made.  So find a way to balance it all out.  Exercise, eat well as much as you can, indulge when you want to, and get ready to kick 2019’s butt!

~L

Putting in the Work

In honor of Flashback Friday, I thought it’d be fun to talk about my high school running career.  I much rather tell you about my tennis career because I was actually good at that.  But I think sharing something I sucked at would make for a better story…

My first day of track practice in 9th grade was nothing short of ego-crushing. I just came off of tennis season and felt pretty good about how it went.  I had easily made the Varsity team and was one of the better players.  I knew going into the winter track season that it wouldn’t be the same; I was just using running as a way to stay in shape for tennis, build up my endurance for long matches.  And running long distance (the 1500 meter and 3000 meter races) was a really good way to do that.

The track coach split everyone into two groups- long distance and sprinters.  I made my way over to where the long distance runners were gathered.  Pretty much all the long distance runners just finished up their cross country season. I was probably one of the few people who voluntarily decided to run distance who did not run cross country.  The coach told us to run the power lines.  First of all, what are the power lines?  How fare are we running? Can I stop and walk when I’m tired? Are there snacks along the way?  What if I get lost?

The group started running.  Everyone was chit-chatting with one another while we made our way towards the power lines. I could barely keep up, let alone talk!  And as we continued to run, the “real” runners pulled away and got smaller and smaller while I fell behind.  It was probably a combination of them picking up their pace and mine slowing down.  But damn, I sucked!  I probably ran 3 miles that day while everyone else probably ran 4 or 5 (maybe even 6, I was that slow).  The group turned around at some point and scooped me up on their way back to the high school. The same thing happened on the way back—they pulled away and I “walked with a bounce” back to the school.

It was quite clear on that day that I was never going to be the fastest runner on the track team.  Hell, I probably wouldn’t even compete with the average runners, but I was determined to get better.  And I did. I showed up to practice EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I was one of the first people out on the track after the final bell.  I ran on Sunday mornings.  I did all the things I could do to get better.  And I did!  Was I the best?  No, and that’s OK!  As long as I was getting better, I felt good.

Fast forward a few months.  I was sitting at my high school’s annual Varsity Dinner.  Each coach got up and presented a couple of awards to players on their teams.  The track coach, good ol’ Mr. Dwyer, made his way up to the little stage.  He handed out an MVP award (which ya’ll know I didn’t get).  But then he started talking about the next award—the “Work Horse” award.  And before I knew it, I was being called up to accept!  Alright, alright, it’s a little embarrassing that I even remember this but whatever, it meant something to me! I look back on that now and think, I really did deserve that award because I truly worked my butt off during track. I was never going to be the best, but I just wanted to improve and become MY best.

Little did I know, winning that award would later teach me two great life lessons:

  • You can work your tail off for something—whether it’s getting a job promotion you think you deserve, beating your PR (personal record) at your race, ANYTHING, and still not get the promotion, or run your best race time, or whatever. You can try really hard at things and still fail.  And that’s OK.
  • On the flip side, you could know that you’re never going to be the best at something but that shouldn’t stop you from putting your all into it. It should never keep you from trying because THAT is the only way you actually fail- by not trying, by not pushing yourself, by not reaching YOUR potential (whatever that is).

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Here’s a cute little example:  I’ve run 3 half marathons- 13.1 miles.  Each time I’ve run the race, I’ve run a faster time than the last (that’s been my goal each time).  The reality is, no matter how hard I train, I’ll probably never be able to run 7 minute mile pace for 13.1 miles, but it’s not going to stop me from trying to get better each and every time I run a race.  I’m still going to try MY BEST, IN THAT MOMENT to do even just a smidge better than last time.  I mean, I’m a “work horse” according to my track coach, so I’m going to put in the work (work work work work work ß me singing Rihana’s song “Work”).

I thinks sometimes people feel like if they put effort or work into something and they fail then they are a failure.  So when they try something and fail, they get sad/upset/angry/disappointed and kind of close themselves up to trying again.  They don’t want to try something else and fail again because they think:

Failure + Failure + Failure = I’m a failure

Right?

Nah… it’s more like

Failure + Failure + Failure = Growth + Learning + Experience

Think about all things you’ve learned from doing the things you’ve always done?  Whomp whomp… probably nothing.  Think about the times that you’ve tried something new—what did you learn?  You’d be surprised at what you took away from those experiences, big or small.

I worked my butt off for 4 years in track. And I’ll tell you, I never won a race. I never came in first—not EVER.  It didn’t stop me from trying or putting all my effort into each and every race.  I was OK with knowing that every time I stepped out on the 1500m start line, I was going to run over a full minute slower than most of the other girls. And it was OK.  It was kind of a good lesson to learn so young—you mean, I can try really hard and still not be good at something?  Umm, yeah.  So what you’re saying is, even if I know should get the promotion, I might not?  Umm, yeah.  But I should keep doing whatever it is I need to do to be MY best self and eventually things will fall into place?

HELL TO THE YES!